Sometimes when the music stops and you take a long view of recent events you realise how serious things have become. This article had this effect on me – many of the services mentioned here underpin the quality of life in rural areas. What do you think?

In addition to education, critics point to the damaging impact of austerity cuts first introduced in 2010 across a range of other policy areas:

Housing

Housing has become a full-blown crisis since 2010: more expensive, more scarce, and less secure in many parts of the country, especially for young people and low-income working families, as successive governments have let the market balloon while imposing hefty austerity cuts to housing support.

Rents have soared, while wages have stalled. Tenant insecurity has risen. Overcrowding is at record levels. Homelessness has increased. One in 200 people in England are homeless, according to Shelter. Rough sleeping is up over the decade: 600 homeless people died on the streets or in hostels in 2017, up 24% since 2010.

Local government

Back in 2012, a notorious PowerPoint slide circulated in local government called the Graph of Doom. It demonstrated that if austerity cuts and demographic pressures (more older people living longer) continued, councils would be unable to afford to provide anything other than social care within a few years.

Many town halls believe that point is fast approaching. After nearly a decade of cuts, councils spend a fifth less than in 2010; larger councils now spend 60% of their diminished budget on adult and children’s social care, meaning other services – parks, libraries, swimming pools, Sure Start centres, fixing potholes, bus subsidies, winter road gritting, museums – have had to be eviscerated.

Social care

Around 1.4 million adults in the UK fail to get the basic social care support they need, such as help with washing, dressing and eating, according to the charity Age UK. Rising demand from an ageing population, coupled with shrinking budgets, has led to ever tighter rationing.

Since 2010, adult social care spending in England has shrunk by £7bn, with the government averting crises with a series of “sticking plaster” funding packages. Long promised plans for putting social care funding on a sustainable level have been lost in the Brexit long grass, while there is little optimism the autumn public spending review will come to the rescue.

In children’s social care, welfare cuts, soaring poverty levels and rising parental mental illness have contributed to an explosion in child protection activity. Since 2010, assessments of children at risk of harm or neglect have gone up 77%, while child protection plans increased by a quarter, and children in care increased by 15%.

English councils predict a £2bn budget shortfall in children’s services by 2020, forcing growing cuts to preventive services such as family support to meet the cost of child protection.

NHS

Eight years of tiny budget increases have left the NHS in England seriously overstretched, chronically understaffed and £4bn in the red.

Limiting the NHS to 1% rises – far below the historic 3.7% average – has also forced patients to endure increasingly long waits for A&E care, cancer treatment, planned operations and to see a GP at their local surgery.

In-depth research published last week found levels of public satisfaction across Britain with the NHS at their lowest ever (53%) and the highest levels ever of dissatisfaction with GP services. Delays in accessing care were the main driver of rising discontent, it found.

Police

Police chiefs have long been warning about the impact of budget cuts on their ability to do their job, and the issue has come to the fore with the escalating concern about violent crime.

Home Office research leaked to the Guardian last year found that falling officer numbers were likely to be “an underlying driver that has allowed the rise [in violent crime] to continue”.

In Theresa May’s six years as home secretary to 2016, police numbers fell by 20,000 as she slashed their budgets while insisting that they could cut crime by eliminating inefficiencies. The number of officers fell from a peak of 144,353 in 2009 to 122,404 by March 2018.

The chancellor, Philip Hammond, has trumpeted the extra £970m in police funding pledged for the next financial year. However, police chiefs have warned that this is too low, and that some of the cash will be swallowed up by other liabilities, possibly leading to a further fall in headcount.

Comments are closed.